According to a rather literal Christian reading of the bible, there awaits a coming judgment, with profound implications for every human who's ever lived. Books will be opened, accounts will be weighed, trumpets will sound...yada, yada, yada. Ultimately, all of mankind will be divided into two groups. The smaller group- supposedly, those who accepted God, and/or Jesus Christ, and/or the Holy Spirit (that trinity thing still isn't quite sorted out ) into their hearts- will immediately be sent to a land of milk and honey, a world of perfection where nary a desire will go unfulfilled, forever and ever, amen.
Meanwhile, the bulk of the human race (the bible isn't clear on the exact number; for sake of argument, let's agree on 70%), for the crime of choosing the wrong deity (or, perhaps worse, feeling ambiguous about the whole matter), will be cast into the sort of torture pit that only an omniscient, all powerful and ultra-benevolent(???) deity could conjure up. Admittedly, some make the case that all the fire and brimstone is metaphorical, and that hell is simply a place absent of God (and the implied love, friendship, sense of belonging, etc that supposedly comes with the package), where the torture will be of the merely(???) psychological variety. Either way, a tough row to hoe. And, of course, it, too, goes on forever and ever, amen.
Let's examine, then, the states of mind of those on the upper floor.
First of all, I think we have to assume some sort of moral correlation between God's heaven and the denizens which dwell therein. I realize the basic Christian dogma (allowing some flux between denominations) makes it fairly clear that entrance into the Kingdom is predicated upon personal acquiescence to 'God's plan'; specifically, that a person must accept God, through the mediative aspect of Jesus Christ, into his/her heart. Of course, there are enough arguable details of what this proposition actually entails to fill libraries. However, for the sake of this argument, we'll adopt the encapsulated, bumper sticker catch phrase, 'Believe and Receive', and leave it at that.
Well, not quite 'at that'. Because, all wrapped up in this 'accepting Christ' motif is the concept of personal transformation; that is, the true believer, through a new mode of metaphysical accessibility granted by his status as a God Childe, is automatically imbued with a new, and supposedly 'higher', morality. There is a stiffening of emphasis on becoming a better person; an empowerment from the inside, as it were, and characterized by a heightened moral sensibility which most of us would call a 'conscience'. And I think that I could argue that one of conscience's most basically concomitant features is a sense of empathy; or, at least sympathy (personally, I don't see much difference between the two)...
In Part 2, I'll examine the contradiction of a superior conscience willingly acceding to Christianity's heaven/hell framework.